Basil is an upscale Thai establishment on the Northern tip of the Short North. The menu features a ton of vegan and gluten-free dining options.
Diners with dietary restrictions should be very pleased by the menu at Basil. Almost 70 percent of the menu is available as a vegan preparation, and another 50 percent of it can be made gluten free. The menu is a combination of traditional and modern Thai dishes alongside a few fusion dishes.
One other nice feature of Basil is the $7.50 lunch special. Diners get a soup, an appetizer and limited choice of lunch-portion entrees for this low price. While I didn't sample the lunch deal, it looks like a tremendous bargain.
I started with the fresh rolls, which were cold rice noodles, mint, carrots and tofu surrounded in a rice wrapper and served with plum sauce. The carrots were beautifully crunchy, the mint added a bright layer of flavor and the sweetness of the sauce brings the whole dish together successfully.
I also sampled the vegan Tom Ka, a coconut milk soup with root vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, citrus leaves, lemongrass, green onions and cilantro. While the flavor was pleasant, the dish lacked the complexity that is traditional with this Thai classic.
The Thai eggplant is served in a spicy brown sauce with tofu, white onions, jalapeño peppers and Thai basil. The texture of the eggplant was perfect--soft without being overly chewy. The peppers and onions added texture to the dish. The least successful part of the dish was the tofu, which didn't seem to integrate into the dish. On future visits, I might order the eggplant without tofu.
Basil features an extensive cocktail menu in addition to limited beer and wine options. The service is friendly and capable. The decor is stark, dark and understated.
Overall, I liked Basil but didn't love it. Having eaten at Nida's and Thai Grille recently, Basil didn't seem to be up to their level. However, the $7.50 lunch special should be hard to pass up, and Basil is different enough from the other two aforementioned places to make it a decent change-of-pace option.